Today I have the honor and privilege of introducing you to Columbus Abbit Frank, a U.S. Marine veteran who fought in the battle of Iwo Jima during World War II.
Our family has known Frank for many years (he’s my husband’s uncle―who, incidentally, has been known only as “Frank” since he attended boot camp in 1944), but we never took the time to learn his story. All we knew about him was that he had fought at Iwo Jima.
In the 90s, Frank and his wife, Loretta, came to visit us in Northern Virginia, and we took them to a Sunset Parade at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington (an amazing demonstration that I’d encourage every American to experience at least once).
Because of Frank’s service at Iwo Jima, he was seated in the hosting general’s section. Frank, then in his late-70s, wore the requisite veterans’ Iwo Jima ball cap as he walked past the gauntlet of civilians and Marines toward his seat. Every Marine who noticed the cap snapped to attention and saluted, adding either “Oorah, Sir,” or “Semper Fi, Marine,” or even just, “Thank you, Sir.” I’ve never seen a man treated more honorably, and was more proud of the Marine Corps at that moment than I’ve ever been, before or since. By the end of the night, Frank’s face was beaming, and his pride was evident.
Still, we didn’t ask for the entire story.
Nearly 20 years later, we visited the monument again, this time with our youngest. We told him about the battle, and that his great uncle had fought there, but we had no details to add. It was an awakening of sorts. We realized with regret that we’d been taking for granted the living history available to us just for the asking.
So, we set out to capture his story for the family archives, and got much more than we’d expected. Not only is this an incredible war story, but it also tells of a strong, hard-working man who refused to be kept down by the hand originally dealt him, and who made his own way in the world despite the challenges of his childhood. He is the epitome of Real America, where a person can advance as far as he can dream, if he’s willing to work for it.
Better yet, Frank has not only allowed me to tell his story, but also to hang it on my Portrait Page so we can share it with you. I hope you’re as inspired as we are by this ordinary man with an extraordinary story.
NOTE: Special thanks to Charles, my 14-year-old, who conducted the interview on a recent trip to Sacramento, and to his dad for getting him there.
God Bless you, Uncle Frank, and thank you for your service.